An Unchained Dog of War: An Examination of the Lack of Constraint on Presidential Uses of Force in the Modern Era

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Defence and Peace Economics


Research on the constraint President’s face in matters of foreign policy is generally of the view that they are largely free to do as they please. Some research however posits that Congressional constrain on the executive is in fact much larger than it is given credit for. Using their research as a jumping off point, I re-examine this matter by asking when the President will seek ex ante Congressional authorization for the use of force. I estimate this potential effect of Congressional constraint on the President by looking at US initiated militarized interstate disputes with at least one fatality. In so doing, it is demonstrated that no Congressional constrain exists in this regard; the President rarely seeks ex ante authorization for the use of force and is therefore not truly constrained in its use. In fact, evidence is brought to bear that if anything the diversionary theory of war initiation may hold water; inflation is shown herein to be negatively linked to ex ante Congressional authorization for the use of force. It seems as though the President is less likely to ask Congress for permission to conduct deadly military operations when inflation is high.





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